Action Mesothelioma Day 2012 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Judging by the capacity crowds at yesterday's (July 6) events on Action Mesothelioma Day 2012 (AMD), it is clear that Britain's annual day to remember the asbestos dead has achieved an iconic status. Up to a thousand people in cities and towns turned out for church services, flower laying ceremonies, conferences, public rallies, dove releases, and photographic exhibitions amidst weather conditions which were far from ideal.1 AMD participants, many of whom were suffering from serious asbestos diseases, made their way by car, bus, train and foot to draughty church halls, grand civic buildings, municipal parks, meeting rooms and marquees to join together in a spirit of fellowship and mutual support.2

Speaking at a meeting in Aberdeen, organized by Clydeside Action on Asbestos, mesothelioma widow Evelyn Collier said: “There is simply no comparison between the life we had before diagnosis and after diagnosis. However, for us, it is important to stay positive and focus on the things we can do rather than dwell on what we can no longer do. Although the event will be extremely emotional, it is important to talk about the people and their lives and recognise that asbestos-related disease is not a thing of the past.”3 At a special service of remembrance at Leicester Cathedral, Pamela Howkins, spoke about the death of her husband in 2011, after his five year battle with mesothelioma: “I lost the best thing in my life – Jim – and if I can help save just one more life, by helping raise awareness of this disease, I feel I will have made a difference...”4

The theme for this year's AMD was prescient as the subject chosen was the need for a worldwide ban on asbestos. On June 29, just one week before AMD, the Quebec Government announced that funding of $58 million had been provided for businessmen developing a new asbestos underground mine in the town of Asbestos, Quebec.5 It was fortuitous therefore that Canadian Ban Asbestos Campaigner Kathleen Ruff had been invited to speak at the AMD event in Manchester; her presence meant that the developments in Quebec could be addressed by someone with intimate knowledge of the situation.


Kathleen Ruff (centre) at the Manchester meeting, AMD 2012.

To a packed audience, Ms. Ruff explained the background to the decision by the provincial authorities to hand over taxpayers' money for the asbestos scheme. Jason Addy reported that most of the delegates in Manchester were shocked by the news that the Province of Quebec was providing the bulk of the money for developing and operating the new mine. “It was interesting to see,” he said “how the initial response of surprise quickly became outrage as Kathleen explained the political machinations and financial tactics of Canadian asbestos stakeholders like Bernard Coulombe and Baljit Chadha.” Knowing that most of Britain's asbestos fatalities had been exposed to Canadian asbestos, the people in Manchester were appalled at the thought that the lives of millions of people in developing countries would be endangered by Canadian asbestos for generations to come.

In Liverpool, Laurie Kazan-Allen echoed Kathleen's sentiments when she briefed the AMD meeting of the Cheshire and Merseyside Asbestos Victim Support Groups about recent developments: “Canada had,” she said “run out of asbestos. Instead of letting this toxic industry die a natural death, government funds have been injected into a financially-suspect and morally bankrupt scheme to construct new mining facilities in Quebec.” Naming names, she showed a photograph of Baljit Chadha, the man heading up the international consortium backing the Jeffrey Mine project and said:

“Let me conclude my remarks today by sending a message to Canada's asbestos businessmen; and I mean you Baljit Chadha and your investors, all of whom prefer to remain in the shadows. Be warned and be on your guard; the people of Merseyside and Cheshire are not done with you. We are as one when we say we will not allow you to profit while others die. You may have convinced Quebec's asbestos cabal to fund your dastardly project but that was just the first battle. The war over the new Jeffrey Asbestos Mine continues. This is NOT over!”6

Quebec's financial involvement with the new asbestos mine was unanimously deplored by the participants at the AMD meeting in Liverpool Town Hall.


Photo courtesy of Chris Gregory

Condemnation of Canada's continuing support for the asbestos industry and the country's double standards on asbestos – a substance it is happy to export but refuses to use – was a recurrent theme at meetings in Tayside, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Runcorn, Birmingham, Southampton, Leicester, Leeds, Plymouth, Rotherham and London. Reinforcing the pervasive disgust this topic engendered were the buttons designed and produced by UK campaigning groups that were proudly worn at AMD meetings. The wording on the striking yellow background was concise and to the point: Cancer Alert! Canada to open new asbestos mine.


The production of these badges was facilitated by the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), the June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund and the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund, organizations dedicated to confronting Britain's asbestos tragedy and taking action to prevent others from experiencing the deadly consequences of asbestos exposure.

The activities described above would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of individuals and groups committed to seeking justice for the asbestos-injured. From the discussions in Liverpool, it was crystal clear how important the assistance provided by teams at the Merseyside Asbestos Victim Support Group and the Cheshire Asbestos Victim Support Group had been to asbestos sufferers. Unfortunately, the existence of these and other UK groups has been put in jeopardy by impending reforms under The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. With the country's asbestos epidemic in full swing, all attempts to curtail the essential work of these groups must be strenuously resisted.7

July 7, 2012


1 Groups meeting in Liverpool, Manchester and Southampton reported record numbers of people attending the 2012 events; attendance figures will be updated as more information becomes available.

2 IBAS blog, July 8, 2012: Confronting Merseyside's Asbestos Legacy.

3 Families affected by asbestos-related disease come together. July 6, 2012

4 Asbestos victims are remembered. July 7, 2012.

5 Kazan-Allen L. New Asbestos Mine in Quebec. June 30, 2012.

6 Kazan-Allen L. Warnings Unheeded: a British Tragedy becomes a Global Disaster. July 6, 2012.

7 Kazan-Allen L. Reprieve for Mesothelioma Victims. Issue 86, British Asbestos Newsletter. Spring 2012.



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